Friday, January 18, 2019

Give me a ticket to an aeroplane

Baby just wrote me a letter:

Heh
"In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate."

I don't care how much money I gotta spend/Got to get back to my baby again.

"I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington and negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown."

And how can Nancy Pelosi respond? Realistically, if the shutdown is a crisis, why was she leaving town? For that matter, why were a bunch of Democrats in Puerto Rico last weekend? The job is in Washington, D.C., or so we thought.

The rack full o' luggage is pretty amusing, too:

Or is it baggage?
This may be a new thing -- the totally righteous troll. And not to put too fine a point on it, but one thing is clear -- Pelosi and her pals don't give a damn about the shutdown, or the impact of the shutdown. They were perfectly content to leave town and let their flying monkeys in the MSM frame the narrative their way. Again, pardon my French, but calling bullshit on this and stopping Pelosi's junket is one of the finest moments of Trump's presidency.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

D and Benster Talk Hall of Fame Ballot -- 2019 Edition, Part One

It's more or less an annual tradition that we talk about the candidates for the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame. This year, Benster is going to be weighing in as well. We will cover 1st year candidates in this post, then circle back for the rest on Saturday. By the way, this is the strongest group of first-year candidates we've seen in a long time.

I'm old enough now where I've seen many of the players on the ballot, so I figure my opinion is worth something.

Opinions you've got for sure. So let's weigh in, shall we?

One and done (most likely) candidates. These guys are on the ballot because they meet the minimum requirements, but no one thinks they're worthy. I will dispatch each with a brief comment, and Benster will weigh in as he feels necessary:

Rick Ankiel: Started out as a pitcher, then became an outfielder. Memorable more for personal issues than anything he did on the field.

Interesting story, but his baseball career is more about the virtual circuit. Not a HOF player at all.

Juan Pierre: Speedy outfielder, sort of a modern-day Mickey Rivers, but less of a character than Mickey. Had a few nice seasons, but that was it.

He was underrated member and key contributor to the '03 Marlins, but doesn't belong.

Darren Oliver: He had a long career, 20 seasons. Was a starter initially, but ended up being a situational lefty. Won more games (118) in the majors than you might think, but was never a dominant player.

Not even close.

Jon Garland: Tall righthander, pitched most of his career with the White Sox. Had his best year in the championship season of 2005, winning 18 games for the Sox with an era of 3.50. He was never a dominant pitcher but he would definitely keep you in the game.

Solid #3 starter. As a rule, number 3 guys aren't in the HOF unless they are John Smoltz. He's not Smoltz.

Freddy Garcia: A good righthander, teammate of Garland on the 2005 White Sox. More successful career than Garland overall, winning 156 games. Similar career to current Twin Ervin Santana. A guy you were never afraid to trot out there, but not a HOF pitcher. May get enough votes to get a second crack, but probably not.

Had some good years in Seattle; other pitchers of his generation were better.

Ted Lilly: A poor man's Tom Glavine. Lefthander, bounced around a lot. Had several good seasons with the Cubs. He won over 10 games in 10 different seasons, which will keep you around. Good guy, by all accounts.

A good glue guy to have in your rotation. Glue guys don't make the Hall.

Michael Young: A good infielder, mostly at 3rd base. Had some power and usually hit for a good average -- lifetime .300 hitter. Made the All-Star Game 7 times, usually representing the Texas Rangers. Similar career to Ian Kinsler, although Kinsler is a better overall player. Might get a second look, but won't make it.

I'd also add that the Rangers were inconsistent during his tenure. Since he was one of the leaders of the team, that's not a good look.

Jason Bay: A power hitting leftfielder who bounced around a lot. Hit over 30 home runs in 4 seasons. Career numbers are similar to guys like Jesse Barfield, who you might remember but don't consider a HOF player. Of course, Barfield had probably the best outfield arm in the American League during his career. Bay was out in left because he couldn't throw.

Did win Rookie of the Year, but a lot of guys who aren't in the Hall won Rookie of the Year. 

Travis Hafner: Essentially a poor man's Jim Thome. Like Thome, he played the bulk of his career with the Indians. Hit 42 homers in his best season (2006), but ended up with about a third of Thome's career totals. Thome is in the Hall of Fame. Hafner is not going to get there.

He also struggled with injuries, which greatly shortened his career. Even so, he's not dominant enough to get by that.

Vernon Wells: A contemporary of Jermaine Dye and of similar value. He hit 270 homers and did win  3 Gold Gloves, but he was never great and he made the mistake of playing the majority of his career in Toronto, which meant no one paid much attention to him. But if no one thought Jermaine Dye was a HOFer, no one will think Wells is one, either.

Wells got caught in the shuffle, due to residing in the unglamorous city in baseball's glamor division. I'd be shocked if the Vets Committee gives him a second look.

Derek Lowe: He had a career that resembled John Smoltz, except he wasn't nearly as good. A starter who became a closer and then went back to being a starter, Lowe won 176 games, which means he had a substantial career. He also was a key member of the Red Sox when they finally broke through in 2004. Is that enough? Probably not. He may get enough votes to stay on the ballot, but I don't think he's ever going to get in.

Lowe won all three clinching playoff games in 2004, which is impressive. But it's not enough.

Kevin Youkilis: A guy who had great taste in teammates, he's a right-handed version of Mike Moustakas. Hit with moderate power and for a good average. Remembered more for being a colorful character than anything he did on the diamond.

Bill James famously called Youkilis "The Greek God of Walks." He'll have to live with that being his claim to fame, although I bet he rarely pays for a drink in a Boston bar.

Placido Polanco: Actually a pretty good player who was an excellent #2 hitter, but his career is scattered because he bounced around a lot. A career .297 hitter with decent power and a good glove, he was always a guy you wanted on your team. He might stick around on the ballot for a cycle or two, but I fear his tendency to be on the move will hurt him.

Those Tiger teams he played on were better than you might remember. If the '84 Tigers had to wait for recognition, Polanco will have to wait as well.

Miguel Tejada: An excellent career, but a steroid and HGH user who lied to Congress during their 2005 investigation. His stats are comparable to players like Alan Trammell (in the Hall) and Robinson Cano (active but with PED problems of his own). If he'd put together the career he did without juicing, I think he'd have an argument. Not sure he does now. May stay on the ballot for a while, though.

I think steroid users have no business even being on the ballot. Bye, Miguel.

Multiple ballot guys -- these guys will stay on the ballot, but won't make it in our estimation:

Roy Oswalt: An excellent pitcher who was never the staff ace, he won 163 games and had an superb career ERA (3.36), but he was, like Jon Garland, usually the #3 starter. Some of that was because his teammates (Clemens, Pettitte, Halladay) were just better, but when you look at his overall numbers, he compares favorably to people like Ron Guidry and Bret Saberhagen, who were great pitchers. But, you might notice, neither Guidry nor Saberhagen are in the Hall, either.

I want to like Oswalt. I really do. I just can't think of a signature moment in his career, though. It wouldn't surprise me if he falls off the ballot, but he's likely to stay on for another year.

Lance Berkman: He had a really nice career -- 366 homers, career .293 average, and was a winning player who was a contributor in multiple World Series teams. Is that enough? Do you think Jim Edmonds and Dick Allen are HOF-worthy? Maybe, but neither are in, although Edmonds has a better case. Berkman's career numbers are similar to those guys. Hall of the Very Good, if you ask me.

Berkman is borderline to me as well. He's a guy that I think the Veteran's Committee will give a second look some day.

Andy Pettitte: Man, this guy is a tough case. He won a lot of games (256) and was a key figure on some great Yankees teams. He also helped the Astros make the World Series in '05. But he was a PED guy, too, and he also was a bit of a weasel when you look back at things. If he'd laid off the juice, he'd be a no-brainer. But for now, I don't think he's there. He'll get a chance to make his case, though.

I've always compared Pettitte to Whitey Ford. Both were proven postseason performers. The problem is, Whitey Ford's only drug of choice was booze. You can argue about the morality of that, and his hijinks with Mickey Mantle are legendary. But he didn't use steroids. I'd be a hypocrite if I thought Pettitte was a Hall of Famer.

Todd Helton: For me, the most interesting guy on the 1st year list. I think Helton was a great player. He hit .316 for his career and hit 369 home runs. He was a Gold Glove first baseman, a leader, and probably one of the best ambassadors the game has had in the 21st Century. But he played his entire career at Coors Field, so some voters are going to knock him. I think the comparable player in this case is Jeff Bagwell, who is in the HOF on merit. Bagwell had to wait a few years, and Helton might, too, but he's a HOF player for sure in my estimation.

We'll discuss the other longtime Rockie on the ballot later. I think Helton belongs. I also find it hypocritical that people hold Coors Field against guys like Helton, when there are plenty of players who benefited from their own home ballparks, including a list of Yankee left-handed power hitters as long as your arm. The Gold Gloves at Coors should count for something, too.

Roy Halladay: Doc died in a plane crash, but we're going to forget that. Based on his career, which was somewhat shorter than some HOF pitchers, does he deserve enshrinement? I think yes, and I think he clears the bar rather easily. He won over 200 games and had an outstanding ERA (3.38). He was a straight-up intimidator and a stopper of the first rank. You gave him the ball and he got the job done. He also threw a no hitter in the playoffs, which only Don Larsen beat. He was the greatest pitcher in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays and a key player for some very strong Phillies teams as well. He may make it on the first ballot, but if he doesn't, he'll be there soon.

Doc was a very fun pitcher to watch. He's going to get in on the first ballot. He was the type of pitcher you wanted to give the ball to.

Mariano Rivera: Quite simply the greatest relief pitcher of all time. He was dominant and amazingly consistent. He kept Louisville Slugger in business with all the bats he shattered with his terrifying cutter. And yet he was a modest, gentlemanly player who was universally respected throughout baseball. But he was a stone killer. An all-time great for sure.

My only complaint about Rivera is that he dominated the Twins. When you can consistently get major league hitters out with one pitch, it's hard to deny your greatness. I consider myself lucky to have watched him play.

That's that. See you later for the returning candidates.

Get your hate on

Victor Davis Hanson, once again, explains the larger forces at play:
[Rick] Wilson was not original in his smear of the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump. He was likely resonating an earlier slander of Politico reporter Marco Caputo. The latter had tweeted of the crowd he saw at a Trump rally: “If you put everyone’s mouths together in this video, you’d get a full set of teeth.”

Was the point of these stereotypes that poor white working-class people who supposedly voted for the controversial Trump understandably ate improperly, did not practice proper dental hygiene, or did not visit dentists—or all three combined?

When challenged, Caputo doubled down on his invective. He snarled, “Oh no! I made fun of garbage people jeering at another person as they falsely accused him of lying and flipped him off. Someone fetch a fainting couch.”
Peel him a grape, too. There's more:
Caputo’s “Garbage people” was also a synonym for the smears that two career FBI agents on separate occasions had called the archetypical Trump voters.

In the released trove of the Department of Justice text communications involving the Clinton email probe, an unidentified FBI employee had texted to another FBI attorney his abject contempt for the proverbial Trump voter and indeed middle America itself: “Trump’s supporters are all poor to middle class, uneducated, lazy POS [“pieces of sh*t”].” In fact, Trump in 2016 received about 90 percent of all Republican votes, about the same ratio as won by both recent presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney.

In the now notorious text communications between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, fired FBI operatives on Robert Mueller’s special counsel team, Strzok right before the 2016 election had texted his paramour Page: “Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support.”
If you want to know why the government shutdown, and the plight of our noble public servants as they struggle with temporary cash flow issues, doesn't seem to be getting much traction, you might want to consider Page and Strzok, and their great love for those they serve.

So if you are a self-proclaimed paragon of tolerance, why the hate? Back to Hanson:
These outbursts were all voiced from highly educated elites (Caputo has a journalism degree from the University of Miami, [Donny] Deutsch graduated from the Wharton School, [Sarah] Jeong from Harvard Law School, Strzok received a master’s degree from Georgetown, Wilson attended George Washington University). And all engaged in vicious and cowardly stereotyping of a demographic in a manner that they assumed involved no downside. Rather, the smears were delivered on the expectation of winning approbation from their peers. And they did in twitter-fueled competitions to find the crudest pejoratives.
 Cue the Dobie Gray:



I'm in with the in crowd 
I go where the in crowd goes 
I'm in with the in crowd 
And I know what the in crowd knows

Hatred can wear academic regalia, or it can wear the cloak of professionalism. But at bottom, it's all the same. Hanson:
Those who slander the deplorables and irredeemables assume that they can say almost anything and expect no pushback, given the white working classes lack the romance of the poor and the supposed panache of the elite. A race to the bottom develops in which the more the hatred, the more the clicks and the media exposure. Minority critics expect their own identity politics affiliations to shield them from criticism. Wealthy white elites virtue-signal their disgust for those without privilege as a way of ensuring that those like themselves, who most certainly enjoy privilege, are rewarded with ideological exemptions for it.

Finally, we are learning that the entire idea of political correctness was never much about universal ideas of tolerance of the other, or insistence that language and protocols must not stigmatize individuals by lumping them into stereotyped and dehumanized collective groups.  What we are witnessing, instead, is that it is fine to demonize millions, from their appearance to their purported hygiene and smell to affinities with feces and apes—if it serves political or cultural agendas.

In sum, cultural progressivism is about raw power, not principle.
It's also the realization that, no matter how many degrees and credentials one obtains, we all will revert to junior high social norms when we can get by with it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Under a spell

I guess Bad Orange Man made a typo the other day in one of his tweets. This isn't news, but apparently one of the beneficiaries of his purchases thought it was trollin' time:

We are funny, so funny
Of course, typographical errors are yet another sign that the 25th Amendment should be invoked, at least according to John McWhorter:
The president of the United States has many faults, but let’s not ignore this one: He cannot write sentences. If a tree falls in a forrest and no one is there to hear it … wait: Pretty much all of you noticed that mistake, right? Yet Wednesday morning, the president did not; he released a tweet referring to “forrest fires” twice, as if these fires were set by Mr. Gump. Trump’s serial misuse of public language is one of many shortcomings that betray his lack of fitness for the presidency.
Trump writes sentences. Professor McWhorter does not approve of his sentence structure. I am a writer by trade, although I don't write much for my employer, because I have a team of copywriters who handle the work. Do I prefer copy that is free of typographical errors? Of course. This is also why my company employs a copy editor.

McWhorter knows his premise is faulty, but persists anyway:
One must not automatically equate sloppy spelling with sloppy thinking. Quite a few admired writers are not great spellers before editing. The problem here is that he neither checked the tidiness of this message before it went out to the public, nor asked anyone else to take that step, about an issue as dire as an interruption of governmental services (Governmental Services?). Such negligence is of a piece with Trump’s general disregard of norms, details, and accuracy.
One must not do something, but one does it anyway. Thanks for clarifying, Professor.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Nobody does it better

Trump feeds the Clemson Tigers fast food and turns the outrage meter up to 11:

Image result for trump fast food clemson
Have some
The sputtering rage on my social media feed was something to see. A representative sample:
REPREHENSIBLE. In America it has been customary for champions of any sport to be invited to the White House for a celebration. Prior to Jan 20, 2017 it was a high honor. Now that the criminal occupant of the WH is there, the ceremony is ridiculous. For the football national champions Clemson University, the “menu” is McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s; fast food chains. There’s a 5 STAR CHEF at the White House, and this imbecile serves the champions junk food. Disgusting!!!!!!
It's all there. And you don't need to figure out which fork to use.

Snowmageddon in St. Louis -- Sloppy

We pick up the story the following morning. By the time we had to check out of the Hampton in Chesterfield, the snow was turning into rain. That makes all the difference, because now we were simply dealing with wet roads. We were able to make our way to the Saint Louis University campus, then head back west to the Delmar Loop area of St. Louis, a district of shops and restaurants that reminds me of Grand Avenue in St. Paul, although with one difference; there are no Chuck Berry statues in St. Paul:

.
Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, snow, tree and outdoor
Meanwhile, I'm still thinkin'
Had the temperature dropped, as generally happens in the Twin Cities following a big snowstorm, things would have been much worse. We were generally able to get around, especially since many of the good citizens of St. Louis were still hunkered down. We headed back to SLU and got the rest of Fearless Maria's things unpacked, then headed to our hotel, near Union Station. It's a great location and the building itself dates back to the early 1900s.

Image result for drury inn st. louis at union station
Old school
They don't build 'em like that any more. It was a much better day.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Snowmageddon in St. Louis

Well, that was a hell of a weekend. We went to St. Louis to drop Fearless Maria off at Saint Louis University. You may have heard about the snowstorm that hit the area over the weekend. It was tough out there. Really tough. I've clipped a map to set the scene:

MoDot hostage situation

The main road shown is I-64, which begins around Wentzville, Missouri, about 20 miles to the west. We arrived at the area about 6:00 p.m., heading eastbound. Our car was located about where the 64 logo is shown on the left of the screen. It was snowing heavily and traffic was stopped.  Absent any information from the Missouri Department of Transportation about road conditions ahead, we assumed it was a temporary delay. It was not. The road was closed up ahead. We did not know that. We turned on the local radio, hoping in vain to find out information about our particular situation. Instead, we got Cardinals happy talk on KMOX. By about 6:45, we had edged to the area around the off-ramp, but we were in the middle lane and could not get over. By this time, we'd started downloading the MoDOT apps on our phones and were calling MoDOT directly to find out what was going on. We found out that the road was closed ahead. We wanted to know what the plan was to open the road. Apparently there was no plan. Since I was behind the wheel, I couldn't call ahead to our hotel, but Fearless Maria was able to reach the hotel and cancel our reservation.

By 7:30, we were under the overpass. Still, no movement. Stuck in the center lane. The snow continued to fall. Nothing. No communication. Eventually, I was able to find an open space and get over to the right lane. By 8:50, we were at the merge point from Boone's Crossing to the highway. We were able to turn the car around and then go back up the on-ramp. We saw hotels (not shown) on the right side. We were able to pull into the parking lot of the Hampton Inn property. They had no rooms, but they were hoping there might be a cancellation, and offered us the opportunity to stay in the lobby. I did that, while Fearless Maria trudged through the snow to find a restaurant. Just about everything had closed, including the Brick House Tavern (shown on the map), which is next door to the hotel. They pointedly refused to get us food. Maria met a customer leaving the Brick House, and he told her that there was a Raising Cane's down the street that was still open. Mrs. D was able to find her way over there and get food and bring it back. By 9:50, the night manager at the Hampton had found us a room and our ordeal was over.

We were fortunate, actually. MoDOT was prepared to leave people out on that highway all night long; we learned the next morning that they were doing "wellness checks" on people stranded in the area, bringing them water and perhaps a snack, but weren't doing anything to get the road cleared and people off the highway. Eventually things cleared in the morning, but had we not been able to sidle our way over to the right lane and go back up the on-ramp, we'd have been out there all night. The poor schmucks who were stuck past the merge point, who knows when they were freed?

The next morning, the roads were cleared sufficiently so we could continue our journey and get around the area. There's more to the story and I'll pick it up tomorrow. Let's just say this -- MoDOT is a clown show.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Benster and D Pick Your Games----Divisional Battle Edition

So old dude, do you think that Gino helped run Cody Parkey out of Chicago for what happened Sunday? I personally found it to be quite amusing.

There were laughs. Yes.

Divisional weekend is up next, and the big dogs come out to protect the home field advantage they earned.

Yep. And we must evaluate from snowbound Chesterfield, MO, where they don't have football any more.

But we have it. It is time to watch me work.

Indianapolis Colts (+5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are a team who have struggled to win in the playoffs when it matters. In fact, Andy Reid will sell you a manual car that can't perform when you engage the clutch. The Colts are a difficult draw because they are the type of team that can handle a high powered offense with good defense and a quarterback who is viewed as old news. I like the Colts to pull the upset and set the stage for a very interesting throwback AFC title game. Colts 31, By The Way, What's Wrong with the Chiefs? 17.

It's snowing like hell here in St. Louis and it's snowing in Kansas City, too. Is that an advantage for the Chiefs? Historically, not necessarily. Colts are playing with the house money, but I like the Chiefs this week. Chiefs 28, Colts 20.


Dallas How Bout Them Cowboahs (+7) vs. Los Angeles Rams. Much has been said about the Sean McVay revolution this week when the Packers hired LaFleur, so we get to see if the HYYYYYYYPPPPEEE! is worth it. There are going to be a lot of Cowboys fans in the Coliseum on Saturday night, ready to see if Dallas can get past the barrier that is the Divisional Round. The Rams can play bully ball as well, and I think Dallas is going to waste more talent again. Rams 50, Cowpokes 0.

That's a subtle pick. Can Zeke Elliott play? He'll give it a go. Rams are rested and ready. Rams 31, Cowboys 21.

Los Angeles Chargers (+5) vs. New England Patriots. The Chargers get rewarded with another long trip to play an early game in the Eastern time zone, and to a place where the home team does not lose. Problem is that Patriots fans will never bring up that you can win at Foxboro in the playoffs. This Chargers team looks very interesting to me because Rivers looks like he wants to equal Big Ben and Eli in getting a ring to make those choices all look about equal. This Patriots team reminds me of 2009/2010, a good team that lives off past glories. Chargers 11, Patriots 0.

The Chargers are a team without a country, or even a fan base. But they don't care. The Patriots may be past their sell-by date. I agree with the young fella. Chargers 24, Patriots 17.

Philadelphia Eagles (+8) vs. New Orleans Saints. Well, Nick Foles survived his trip to Chicago and the Eagles are still defending their crown. New Orleans plays amazing in the Dome, though I think the week off is going to be something that hurts a Saints team that thrives off momentum and they also sat their starts. The Eagles are a proven champion team, and I can't pick against Foles, who laughs at your doubts. Eagles 30, Saints 10.

Ah, no. Saints are the best overall team in the tournament. And they will win at home. Saints 31, Eagles 24.
Enjoy your weekend. Ben out.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Travelin' shoes

Back on the road this morning. Driving into a storm, it appears.

Image result for winter storm warning st. louis
Let it snow

Benster will post his thoughts on the playoffs tonight, but I expect posting to be light otherwise for a few days.

Have an open thread.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

I don't know, but I've been told

Have you ever wondered if anything you read is true? Take yesterday, for example:
“The president stomped out of the meeting when he said to me, ‘Will you support a wall?’ and I said no. Now they’re trying to mischaracterize what he actually said,” Pelosi said of GOP leaders. “It was a petulant president of the United States.”
Was it? Do you trust Nancy Pelosi's account of the matter. Or do you have to pass the meeting to see what's in it? There's more:
Trump made clear to Democrats that “there will be no deal without a wall,” said Vice President Mike Pence. It was the third such bipartisan meeting in a week, all of which were unproductive. But this was the shortest, clocking in at about 30 minutes.
Did some one have a watch? Read on:
In the bipartisan meeting, Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Trump, Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen did almost all the talking, according to a person briefed on it.
A person briefed on it? Who is the person? Who did the briefing? In a court of law, this would be called hearsay. Based on previous observation, although from afar, it's easy enough to believe that Pelosi and Schumer were doing a lot of talking. Schumer in particular loves the sound of his own droning voice.

We can believe that these individuals were in the same room, but do we really know what happened in the room? Do we trust any of the participants are telling the truth? Based on what assumptions?

You can go a long way into the weeds with epistemological discussions, but as you attempt to observe the sausage being made, especially from over 1000 miles away, it's never a good idea to assume you're being told the truth.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Approaching lifelike

No, this isn't particularly creepy:

Every picture tells a story, don't it

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Welcome Matt

So the Packers have hired a new coach. It's not this guy:

Image result for matt lepay
Shameless homer Matt Lepay
And it's not this guy:

Image result for matt leblanc friends
That "Friends" guy Matt LeBlanc
Nor is it this guy:

Image result for guy lafleur
Flying Frenchman Guy LaFleur


Instead, it's this guy, Matt LaFleur:

Image result for matt lafleur
The new face of the Packers

The biographical data, from Pro Football Talk:
The 39-year-old LaFleur, who played college football at Saginaw Valley State, started his coaching career there in 2003. After five years as a college coach, LaFleur became an offensive quality control coach with the Texans. Two years later, LaFleur joined Washington. Four seasons later, he served as quarterbacks coach in Atlanta, working with Kyle Shanahan. LaFleur then become offensive coordinator with the Rams for one year, before taking that same job in Tennessee (where he was working with a defensive coach, giving him more control over the offense).
A few observations:
  • While I'm not certain the young hotshot model is always the way to go, LaFleur has good credentials and demonstrable success, especially in Atlanta. Matt Ryan was never better than in 2016, the year LaFleur was there. How much credit LaFleur deserves for that is impossible to know, but the record shows Ryan hasn't been as good since then.
  • Most of the national pundits thought Josh McDaniels, who has been Bill Belichick's right hand in New England, would get the job, but I'm not surprised he didn't. After the way McDaniels jilted the Colts last season, it would have been difficult for McDaniels to assemble a coaching staff. McDaniels is known for his innovative offensives. Unless I miss my guess, the Packers figured LaFleur could do what McDaniels does without the baggage.
  • It sounds like the Packers are going to retain the incumbent defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine. That's a good move. Pettine did nice work this past season, despite an unbelievable run of injuries. By the end of the season, the Packers were playing street free agents in several spots on defense, but Pettine was able to keep things from falling apart. His steady hand will allow LaFleur to concentrate on the key part of the job, which is. . .
  • Aaron Rodgers. Can LaFleur do for Rodgers what he apparently did for Ryan? That's the wager the Packers are making. From what is known about LaFleur, he has the intellectual firepower to deal with Rodgers, a brilliant but arrogant man who happens to be the most gifted quarterback of his generation. It was clear that Mike McCarthy's relationship with Rodgers was beyond repair, which is why he's looking for work. I doubt Rodgers had veto power over the hire, but I'd be willing to wager that Rodgers is okay with it.
  • I was surprised the Packers moved this quickly, but if they decided LaFleur was a better choice than McDaniels, it's likely another team might have felt the same way. The other advantage is LaFleur gets a head start on assembling the rest of his staff. That matters.
The formal announcement should come today. The Green Bay job is unique and the Packers usually are patient with coaches, but there's a sense of urgency given where Rodgers is in his career. Good luck, Coach.

Monday, January 07, 2019

This should work well

Quote of the day, from French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer:
“We need to stop being a country that listens to those who cry the loudest,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told LCI news channel.
I'm sure more high-handedness will be exactly the solution France needs.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Housekeeping

Changed up the background a bit. Always want to keep it reasonably fresh. May do some more tinkering on the edges in the coming days. Hope you like it.

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Don't Talk about Playoffs Edition

So, Old Dude, let's talk about playoffs.

You're kiddin' me.




Baby, I'm not foolin'.


I gotta whole lotta love for playoff action, even if  a certain team we don't like is involved. But we'll troll Gino later. And I have a good one for our pal Gino. Watch me work!

Indianapolis Colts (+1) vs. Houston Texans. First, a little housekeeping. Jim Mora has nothing to do with this Colts team. This game is not exciting to me. Yes, I said I have a whole lotta love for the playoffs, but these are two of the most generic teams in the NFL. The Colts were left for dead in October, but they have been red-hot down the stretch. I think the Texans blew a chance at a first-round bye and the Colts are a bad matchup. Colts 21, Texans 6.

Keep it coolin', baby. I'm at best lukewarm about this one myself. It should be a good matchup but I'm still trying to figure out how the Colts are winning. I think the Texans are a better overall team. And since they are at home. . . Texans 28, Colts 23.

Seattle Seahawks (+2) vs. Dallas How Bout Dem Cowboahs? Great. These clowns again. Two of the most obnoxious fan bases in the league and they get the prime-time slot. And two of the coaches we love to hate. It's Rah-Rah Cheat Carroll vs. Jason "Sparky the Sea Lion" Garrett, always clapping his hands. My rule of thumb for the playoffs -- is your quarterback a proven performer. Russell Wilson fits that bill. Dak Prescott? Not yet. I think Seattle will jump out early and take Zeke away, which means Dak will have to win the game on his own. Can he do it? He has about as much chance of that as Skip Bayless has of getting a meal in Green Bay without the cooks spitting on his burger. Seahawks 28, Cowboahs 0.

Mmmm, a bacon cheeseburger with loogie sauce! It might be more palatable than this game, actually. I share Benster's contempt about these two franchises, but I agree with his analysis. The Seahawks have done this before. The Cowboys? Not since Benster had a rattle in his hands. Expect some rattling tonight. Seahawks 24, Cowboys 13.

Los Angeles Chargers (+2.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens. If you're looking for an upset this weekend, this game is going to be the one. The Ravens, for my money, are the best defense in the league. I'm going to be interested to see how the Chargers start, considering it's an early kickoff on the East Coast. I know Lamar Jackson has never started a playoff game, and I'm going against what I've written earlier. If I'm an NFL coach, Baltimore is a team I do not want to see, either tomorrow or down the line. Ravens 17, Chargers 10.

I would love to see Phillip Rivers have one last playoff run to cement his place in history as a great NFL quarterback. He's had a wonderful career, but often he's been away from the cameras, as the Chargers are only sporadically a glamour team. Baltimore is a very tough place to win, though. This Ravens team is nasty and built for the playoffs. They will be too much. Ravens 24, Chargers 20.

Philadelphia Eagles (+6.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago Da Bearz Still Suck. Gino would like to remind you that his Bears are the NFC North Champions. I would like to remind Gino that he has a namesake who committed this crime against music:


Gino's been lost, living inside himself all season long. But now come the playoffs and the defending champion Eagles are coming to town. Do you remember this playoff game?


That was a weird game. Bears fans, including our man Gino, have been claiming their team is for real all season long. I must admit they are a legitimate team. That being said, they are playing the defending champions. This season won't be a failure for the Bears, but I don't think they can win. Eagles 35, da Bears 31.

I must admit the Gino Vannelli is a nice touch. I'm also glad you spared us all a look at his chest hair. Anyway, this is a matchup that will put hair on your chest for sure. The Eagles were much better down the stretch than they had been, but there's a reason they are a #6 seed, beyond the obligatory Vikings reference. The Eagles aren't consistent. The Bears have been remarkably consistent all season. The key, as is often the case, is can Mitchell Trubisky not lose the game. This week, I think he survives. Besides that, I really want to see a Bears/Rams playoff game next week. Bears 24, Eagles 14.

Clemson Tigers (+5.5) vs. The Crimson Tide of Alabama, in Santa Clara. This is the National Title Game that nobody wanted, but here it is anyway. I'm sick and tired of both of these teams. It was fun the first time, but this is like a cash grab sequel. I would like Clemson to win, since they are slightly less annoying than Alabama. Maybe next year we could have something new and different. Better get rowing that boat, there, P.J.! Clemson 34, Alabama 33.

Do they still make Brylcreem? It seems like a perfect product for the Clemson coach to market. A little Dabo do ya? Well, do ya, Clemson? Alabama really ought to petition the NFL for an expansion franchise at this point. I am with Benster on this one -- it's bad for the game if you have the same two behemoths battling it out every year. As for this game, Alabama is better. Again. Yawn. Alabama 41,  Clemson 30.

Well, that's a lot of territory we covered, old dude. And up to now, I haven't even used the word HYYYYYYYYPPPPPPE! But I got it in. Contractual obligation. Ben out!

Friday, January 04, 2019

Adult Supervision

I heard it more than a few times last year -- we need to elect Democrats to keep Donald Trump honest and to provide adult supervision. Meet one of the new supervisors:
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) — who was sworn in earlier Thursday — is coming out of the gate swinging at President Donald Trump.

According to accounts from multiple reporters, the new Congresswoman made a sharply-worded pledge to a crowd at a reception held by the progressive group MoveOn near Capitol Hill on Thursday night.

Axios’s Alexi McCammond reports that Tlaib quoted her son telling her, “Look mama you won. Bullies don’t win.” Tlaib reportedly replied, “You’re right, they don’t. And we’re gonna go in and impeach the motherfucker.”
You see this cat Trump is a bad mother (Shut your mouth)
But I'm talkin' about Trump (Then we can dig it)
He's a complicated man but no one understands him but Rashida (Don Trump)

She seems nice. It's already obvious that we'll have plenty to blog about in 2019.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Return of Guilty Pleasures -- Fearless Maria Brings the Ol' College Snark

Wait a minute -- look. Who is that sitting to my left?

Your worst nightmare. In color!

Fearless Maria is back in the saddle after a multiple year hiatus from our feature!

It's true. I was on sabbatical in Canada, and then Uganda, and after that I was held hostage for multiple years by the Irondale High School Music Department. But now I'm here. . . and I know you've missed me!

Your adoring public awaits. Well, at least Bubba and maybe Crankbait.

And Gino? Please, we all want Gino!

Gino too.

Well, I guess the lack of humor around here scared everyone else off. And probably the oversaturation of Benster HYYYYYPPPPE! There's only so much your readers can take, Dad!

Good point. So what have you been doing with your life? Besides that Uganda thing.

Well, it's true, I did a lot of music during my high school years, none of which I feel Guilty about, because it was always quite a Pleasure! Now I am going to college at Saint Louis University, moving my talents and reputation towards the Deep South (that's a joke, son), although you'd think it was the Deep South because on more than one occasion, I've been asked if I go up to Canada often because I live in Minnesota. Geography isn't for everybody, I guess.

That's true -- besides which, I'm pretty sure your snowshoes are in the shop.

Yep. Right next to the skis and the Polaris.

So, you remember how this works, right?

Vaguely. I seem to recall that we pick videos of bad 70s songs and then we critique the music and their pathetic fashion sense.

That's right. Shall we begin?

Yes, we've kept them waiting long enough. Sorry, Gino!

So, do you want to do the honors?

Since we've been gone, I think we can depart from any rules, because no one really remembers them anyway. So. . . a Guilty Pleasure from back in the day, since your audience is not likely to have heard anything recorded after about 2005. We'll start here:



That's right. A complete collection of every 80s video cliche known to man, with 80s hair and an astonishing amount of synth.

It's tough to top that one. It's a buffet line of stupidity!

I think what really draws your attention about this piece is how the spectacle of the scenery seems even more overbearing than Bonnie Tyler's screeching in the last two choruses. The song itself could probably have some potential if taken seriously. But having a bunch of teenaged boys parade around like demented Hogwarts students is something most people couldn't take seriously. It's almost like seeing roadkill on the side of the road -- you know it's really bad, but you can't look away.

It's something, all right. But since I want to keep this post PG-13, I won't go any further. Meanwhile, here's a 70s one-hit wonder featuring a dude playing Fearless Maria's favorite instrument:


I don't think the marimba player's outfit would have worked in the Irondale drumline, or even in this decade, but aside from his curious mallet choice (don't use xylophone mallets on a marimba, kids) he did a fine job. I didn't realize it was Phil Mickelson on vocals with the golfer's hat, either. Otherwise, a pretty straightforward song. Okay, so it's my turn. Let's try this one:


Wow. 80s overkill!

The hoop earrings were a nice touch. Meanwhile, you gotta love the complex thought that was put into the lyrics and the erudite rhyming pair of "go-go" and "yo-yo." The costume changes were about as smooth as they can be for the 80s, transforming from the baggy white shirts to the pre-Michael Jordan short shorts. And yeah, the back-up singers really had it going on, even though you'd have thought anyone singing "go-go" would wear go-go boots.

Did you say go-go boots?


You've been same-in, when you oughta be changin'.

You realize those aren't actually go-go boots, right Dad? But I'll say this -- pretty risque for 1966, but you have to love the confidence in the performers. 

A lot of these women are probably in their 70s now.

Yeah, they could do a comeback performance, but those little tennis balls on the walkers might get in the way. My turn again!


This video turned out to be an unintended (well, by us) showcase of 60s fashion. Some of these looks are really coming back. Not necessarily the buttoned overcoat, but the plaid skirt and knee-high boots could appear on a number of students at SLU. I'm not sure about Diana Ross's outfit, but the vocals are spectacular and it's a well-written song. 

One of their best performances, I'd say. One more:


Chaka Khan has better hoop earrings than George Michael. Overall, it seems like the group has a good energy and matches well, with the exception of the keyboard guy with the floral shirt and the pimp hat. The audience is groovin', but I suppose when in Rome (or Philadelphia), it's an occupational hazard. 

So, we're done here. Your choices are:

"Total Eclipse of the Heart," Bonnie Tyler
"Moonlight Feels Right," Starbuck
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," Wham!
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," Nancy Sinatra
"You Keep Me Hanging On," Supremes
"You Got the Love," Rufus

Put your pick in the comment section, just like you always have. And I'm glad to be back. I have to go back to St. Louis next week, but we'll do a better job of keeping up with this feature. Or maybe the Kardashians. But who cares about them, right?

Indeed. Vote early, vote often!

The Seventies are disappearing right before our eyes

It doesn't happen every day, thank goodness, but yesterday we lost three people who were, in their own ways, fairly prominent figures in the entertainment world of the 1970s and 1980s.

The first one we heard about was "Mean" Gene Okerlund, who started out here in the Twin Cities working with Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association as an announcer/interviewer, who then parlayed that gig into fame and fortune with Vince McMahon's various wrasslin' empires. Okerlund didn't have a lot of dash; I always thought he looked like a claims adjuster. But it's difficult to imagine the wrestling world without him. Here is an example of his early work in Minneapolis, featuring the one, the only, Da Crusher:

It's actually subtle -- he lets Da Crusher bluster on, occasionally giving the audience a somewhat worried expression, yet his "questions" invariably lead the viewer where Mean Gene wants the interview to go. Professional wrestling is all about stagecraft and narrative and Mean Gene was a one-man Greek chorus.

Later in the afternoon, we found out that Bob Einstein, best known (I think) as Super Dave Osborne, passed away. Einstein started out his career with the Smothers Brothers, playing an absurdly by-the-book officer named Officer Judy. This bit with another dude from Milwaukee, Liberace, is hilarious:


I loved the Super Dave shtick, which started out as a goof on Evel Kneivel but became something far more amusing. Einstein did a bunch of these Super Dave bits; this one is a personal fave. It's essentially an elaborate setup for an obvious sight gag, but it's a lot of fun a long the way. Trailers for sale or rent:


Einstein's genius was never breaking character -- he was as good at deadpan comedy as anyone I'd ever seen. What was even more amusing and amazing? His younger brother, Albert Brooks, is a master of the neurotic comedy style. Einstein also played the Marty Funkhouser character on Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" series; those bits are often hilarious but most of them are NSFW, so I'll let you head to YouTube for those on a separate visit.

Finally, we learned that Daryl Dragon, best known as the "Captain" in his musical pairing with his wife Toni Tennille. This song was unavoidable in 1975:


Dragon and Toni Tennille had a five-year run through the back half of the 1970 where their music was regularly part of the Top 40. He was also a well-known session musician who did extensive work with the Beach Boys. We haven't seen much of these two in recent years, but they were able to draw an audience long past their heyday.

We are now 40-45 years past many of these performances, so it's not surprising that the performers are leaving the stage. Still, it brings me up short.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Beto, Beer, and Benster

Hey man, pull my Beto:
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s livestreamed New Year’s Eve chat — featuring the former Harvard prof cracking and swigging a beer — is being widely panned as inauthentic pandering, with some political operatives calling it a desperate effort to compete with young contenders.

“It’s called ‘pulling a Beto,'” Democratic consultant Scott Ferson chuckled, referring to up-and-coming progressive Beto O’Rourke, a possible 2020 rival of Warren.
When you're less authentic than the fraud from El Paso, that's saying something. There's more:
Ferson and others noted that the 69-year-old Warren has not been known for the down home, digital fireside chat approach, and it seemed contrived.

“She’s never really made this type of appeal,” GOP strategist Ryan Williams agreed. “She’s nervous about newer younger faces in the Democratic party. She’s making a pretty desperate attempt to make it look like she’s cool.”

“Elizabeth Warren seems more like a chardonnay senator than a beer senator,” quipped Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University politics professor who was a longtime Democratic communications specialist. “It’s just sort of trying too hard … and people have pretty good radar for that sort of thing.”
Two years into the Trump administration, there's one thing he does that's consistently amazing -- he makes all his opponents look terrible. They denounce, they flail, they pretend to be something they're not. It's difficult to suss out how much of that is Trumpian bad juju and how much of it is simply people revealing themselves when the cameras arrive. But I have a suspicion.

A story: when Benster was young and playing Little League baseball, he didn't have a particularly strong arm, which limited his ability to progress much beyond that level. Because he didn't have a strong arm, his coaches generally didn't think to use him as a pitcher. As a result, Benster only got to pitch a few times, but when he did pitch he could be pretty effective. Why? Because he didn't have a strong arm, his pitches almost seemed like lobs to the kids he was pitching to. They would just about fall out of their shoes trying to kill the ball as it approached. He would strike out a few kids and most of the ones who did hit the ball tended to hit weak ground balls to the second baseman. Almost no kid he faced had the patience to wait on the pitch long enough to hit it hard, even though they would take ferocious swings. As long as Benster threw strikes, he'd get kids out.

As we watch the lineup of Democratic candidates come up to the plate in this cycle, watch what happens. I predict a lot of them will be taking ferocious swings, but won't make solid contact.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Hello 2019!

Inline image
All sorts of possibilities
Welcome to 2019. Time to fill more black screens.